How to Deal with Customer Complaints about your Rewards Program

Posted by Erika Stevens on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 @ 01:23 PM

It is an age old life lesson that no matter what you do you cannot please everyone.  Any business owner knows that in the B2C business world there are going to be happy customers, mad customers and everything in between.  While you can't avoid upset customers, what is really important is the way you handle customer complaints and feedback.  This is true with loyalty rewards programs as well.  You start your rewards program to reward your customers, but inevitably you can't make every customer happy. 

Last week this headline caught my eye about Starbucks. The article explains that rewards customers using the gold card are frustrated because they have to maintain their higher status or they lose it.  This sort of loyalty program structure, where you have to maintain a certain level to receive rewards, is not uncommon as almost all airline programs work this way.  I am unsure whether this was a change to the Starbucks rewards program or just a term that they did not clearly communicate.  Regardless, the importance shifts to how Starbucks responds to the complaints and it got me thinking about dealing with customer complaints about your loyalty rewards program. 


1 – Explain the terms and conditions of your rewards program up front. Clearly stating how the rewards program works will help you avoid a lot of customer confusion.  All businesses should post their terms and explain the rewards program on their website at the very least.  If you have a physical location, it is important to have marketing materials in store for the customer to reference.  

2 – Stick with what you say you will do.  Act with integrity and honesty which will help you maintain customer expectations.  If you say you will send a birthday email promotion or once a month customers will receive a newsletter, be sure you are sending them.  If you do decide to make changes in your rewards program, communicate those changes to your customers.  

3 – Be responsive when a customer complains.  Address the complaint and apologize if necessary.  With social media many customers will go around talking directly to a business owner or corporate, instead posting their frustrations and complaints for the whole internet world to see.  This means that the whole world is waiting to see how you respond, not just that one customer.  While you don't necessarily have to give away something free to anyone with a complaint, it is important that you sincerely address their issue.   

4 – Designate a person to be in charge of managing your reputation and customer complaints.  Set up alerts online so you know when customers are talking about your business and your rewards program.  Spend time monitoring whatever social media channels you are on.  Most importantly don’t ignore your email boxes or customer service lines. 

5 – Take time to truly listen to what your customers have to say about your rewards program and make changes if you see fit.  Give your customers a way to submit feedback about your rewards program.  

Like all customer issues the best way to address dissatisfaction with your loyalty rewards program is to apologize and ask for feedback.  Realistically, you will not be able to please everyone, but showing sincere concern when customers complain demonstrates how much you truly value them (and strengthens the emotional connection I wrote about a few weeks ago).